When a spinal cord trauma occurs, a significant amount of secondary nerve damage caused by inflammation and internal scarring that inhibited the ability of the nervous system to repair itself. A new North-western Medicine study reported that after a spinal cord injury, an injection of biodegradable nanoparticle prevented the inflammation and internal scarring that inhibits the repair process.

Researchers led the study on mice with a spinal cord injury. The study reported the mice that received the nanoparticle injection were walking better after the injury than those that did not receive it. When the nanoparticles administered a few hours after the accident, the treatment could prevent secondary damage to the spinal cord in humans after an injury.

The co-senior author of the study, Dr. Jack Kessler said, “It's not a cure. There is still the original damage, but we could prevent the secondary damage. It's an exciting potential treatment. We believe this is something we'll be able to take to the clinic.” Additional studies would require confirming the safety of the injected nanoparticle, he added.

The nanoparticles bound to the inflammatory monocytes (cells that cause the inflammation) and diverted them to the spleen. The nanoparticles made of poly (lactic-co-glycolic) acid, a biocompatible substance.  

Miller, the Judy Gugenheim Research Professor of Microbiology-Immunology at Feinberg said that the study outcomes suggested nanoparticle infusion could provide a new and practical prospective treatment for human spinal cord injury.

Blood cells which usually could not enter the nervous system after a spinal cord injury that breach the protective blood-brain barrier and flood the injury site. The cells released noxious chemicals (inflammatory cytokines), which produced additional inflammatory blood cells. The cells further damaged the central nervous system tissue by causing neuronal cell death and scar formation that blocked recovery from paralysis.

There were two kinds of neurons died. One type, myelin that surrounded the nerve fibers and allowed them to carry signals through the nervous system. In the absence of myelin sheath, the cells could no longer conduct signals. Another type, axons, the long fibers extending from the neurons that carried signals from neuron to neuron.

Kessler said that the novel treatment was not common as it was potentially immediately translatable to human beings. Injection of the nanoparticles into the bloodstream does not need surgery or any expensive intervention. The tiny beads were very stable that could be kept in a syringe. During an emergency, the injection of nanoparticles could be given immediately, he added.